We live in a culture that talks a lot about stress- how to deal with it, how to decrease it, how to release it. It is very easy to go online and educate yourself about what causes stress and how to manage your personal stress levels. We know that ongoing high levels can contribute to a variety of medical conditions, and that exercise (yoga is a popular one) can help counteract and reduce it. Above all, we know that stress is a normal response a perceived threat. Key words: NORMAL and PERCEIVED….tricky tricky- so we should expect some stress, but we also have control over our responses via how we perceive the world around us.
So we know a lot about stress. But how much do we know about why we are the way we are, with regards to our own personal, unique stress response? Research shows that a variety of things influence our stress responses, including but not limited to:
- Gender (in general, women cope better)
- Social Support
- Maternal stress (your biological mother’s stress hormones while you were cooking in the oven, and after your birth)
- Environment (did you know that chronic low-level noise in your community can negatively influence your brain, your behavior, and your stress levels??)
These are just a few examples, but I ended with personality because I think that it’s relationship to stress is misunderstood. I don’t believe that there are just “anxious people” out there, who will always be stressed no matter what, because that’s their personality, and that doesn’t really change. Nope nope nope. There are external and internal “causes” of stress. I see personality as an internal factor in the development and maintenance of stress. An “anxious person” might be dealing with a biological predisposition that makes them more sensitive to stress hormones, but even they are not immune to the benefits of stress management techniques.
That being said, stress management techniques (things people do that help decrease their stress levels) are not a one size fits all deal. What totally stresses me out doesn’t even phase you. My personality, the internal “cause” of stress, has a lot to do with what stresses me out, how I am when I’m stressed, and what I need to stress relieve. Understanding your unique inner factor, your personality, can completely change the way that you manage stress.